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Hurricane Dorian Closer to the U.S. Coastline; Entire Towns Wiped Out in Dorian-Ravaged Bahamas; Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Dies at 95; Trump Stands by Claim Alabama was Threatened by Dorian; U.K. Parliament to Vote on Early Election Motion Next Week. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Dorian now closer than ever to the U.S. coast line lashing the Carolinas and spawning at least two dozen tornadoes.




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds remain missing as the death toll from Hurricane Dorian climbs in the Bahamas.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight. Zimbabwe's hero-turned-tyrant Robert Mugabe has died.

ROMANS: Plus, the "Washington Post" says it has solved the Sharpie- gate mystery? Guess who altered the infamous weather map with a marker? Yes, we're still talking about Alabama-gate.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Friday, September 6th, 4:00 a.m. in New York.

Meanwhile, there is a real hurricane hitting the United States. Hurricane Dorian creeping slowly northeast just off the Carolina coast trailing a path of destruction. In just the last few hours Dorian has now weakened to a Category 1 hurricane. At least five deaths attributed to it in the U.S. Dorian's high winds and lightning strikes leaving more than 293,000 customers in North and South Carolina without power.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam is live for us in Charleston this morning.

Derek, good morning to you. What are you seeing? DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Dave. You know,

residents of Charleston can breathe a sigh of relief this morning because they really were spared the worst from Hurricane Dorian.

We are in the historic district of downtown Charleston right now, and just driving around assessing the damage, we've seen wind damage. We've also seen downed power lines. You see the street lamp here in front of me. We've also seen swamped roadways from some of the surge and the flash flooding that took place through the course of the day.

But it's incredible, the businesses and homes down here took the storm very seriously. They took the opportunities to block their windows and sand bag the lower parts of their doors because they know that this is such a vulnerable coastal city. It does flood quite regularly, but they are prepared for it.

And what you're seeing behind me is one of the quintessential Charleston businesses. We've got the Spice and Tea Exchange. They've had a little bit of what I like to call nuisance damage. In reality, this will take them the better part of the day to clean up. A far cry from what they've felt in North Carolina with over a dozen tornadoes causing damage in that part of the state as Hurricane Dorian edges closer and closer to the outer banks -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, thank you so much for that, Derek. Glad it wasn't worse there. But still more to come up the coast.

The big question of course is where this is headed next. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is standing by live for us in the CNN Weather Center with the latest.

Good morning.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you, Christine. Yes, we are watching this brush by the coasts of the outer banks in North Carolina, and the closest it has come to the shore anywhere in the United States. Right now, in the vicinity of Cape Lookout. The northern edge of the eye is brushing by this area. But they are seeing some of the highest wind gusts of any place that we have seen over days.

The last time we saw a Category 1 Dorian, that was over a week ago. Now it's back down to Category 1 and moving fairly rapidly but not before lashing the coast. We could see storm surge of as much as six feet in some areas.

All right. Here's the latest information. Hurricane Dorian supporting winds of 90 miles an hour but the rainfall, the potential for tornadoes, that's the big problem over the next few hours. But I dare say that by noontime today we're going to see the worst of this is over but the cleanup begins.

We have seen this hurricane travel in excess of 3,000 miles, all the way from Barbados through the devastated Bahamas and then towards and threatening the southeastern coast. Yes, tornadoes are part of this. You don't typically think of tornadoes as being a problem with hurricanes. You think of them as being something over the Central Plains during the summertime months and spring months but in fact damage. One of the places hit, New Byrne City, North Carolina, also Emerald Aisle.

How much rainfall can we see across the outer banks of North Carolina? Some areas could see as much as 15 inches, but I think on the order of six to 10 inches will be more common -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Karen, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, a grim scene and a sobering outlook in the Bahamas. Officials raising the death toll from Hurricane Dorian to 30 with thousands of people still missing. They know that number will rise. Body bags, coolers, and morticians now being transported to Abaco and other hard-hit areas there.


Patrick Oppmann on the ground in the Bahamas with more.

OPPMANN: Dave and Christine, we are in the small town of High Rock on Grand Bahama Island or what I should say was the town of High Rock. Look at the devastation here. This was the local town hospital, the clinic, and it's gone, beaten down to the ground by Hurricane Dorian's Category 5 winds.

We are only about an hour from Freeport but it is another world. The destruction here is just a different level. There are people that say that the Abacos received the worst of the damage but if you just venture a little bit further, places that people have not gone in Grand Bahama Island, you see damage that's every bit as bad and perhaps even worse.

This whole town is gone. There are about 300 people who live there and every house, every car, every structure has some damage, and many, if not most, are totally destroyed. This was a police station. Hurricane Dorian knocked down the concrete wall, took off the roof, and next door, the one-cell jail for this town is wide open. If anybody was inside, they're not there anymore.

The question now is, will towns like this recover and rebuild or simply cease to exist -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: Patrick, thank you so much for that.

Breaking overnight, Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, has died at the age of 95. His passing was announced by the office of the current president. Mugabe was an icon of the African Liberation Movement of the 1970s and '80s but his complicated -- complicated legacy includes his transformation into an authoritarian strongman in later years.

International correspondent Farai Sevenzo joins us live from Nairobi, Kenya.

You know, and it's so fascinating because I guess depending on how old you are in Africa, you have a different view of Robert Mugabe and what his legacy will be.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. I mean, I was a teenager when he came into power. And if living in Harare, the city that he liberated from racist colonialist who went by the name of Rhodesia, the entire Southern African continent, apartheid in South Africa, apartheid in Zimbabwe, apartheid in Namibia. So, he was seen as a great hero. But of course, those 37 years in which he was in control he slowly metamorphosized into an utter autocrat. The laws he enacted, the repression he gave to his own people, that he brooked no opposition from the opposition.

He sent out his thugs, his militias, his police, and his army to quell a kind of democratic need for polarity in the governing systems. But, of course, right now as we mark his death, Zimbabweans were expecting this news. He's died at 95, the same age as Nelson Mandela. But as you rightly say in your introduction, he leaves a very complicated legacy. There was of course among those that that legacy is the 2,000 farm grants of white owned land, he went out and declared that, you know, why should the white farmers have more land than the elephants that roam these places.

Some people might think, well, that was a wrong move because it dropped Zimbabwe into a great crisis. But when we look at 2019, South Africa is going through the same arguments. Namibia is going through the same arguments. So maybe he's (INAUDIBLE), but he was absolutely, as a leader of the opposition told CNN a few minutes ago, that a giant has fallen in African politics.

ROMANS: Certainly a big figure, no question. All right. Farai, thank you so much for that.

Eight minutes past the hour, a key piece of economic data, the August jobs report comes out at 8:30 a.m. today. It's expected the labor markets slowed a bit amid a summer low and the escalating trade war with China. Economists estimate 158,000 jobs were added and they think the unemployment rate probably helped steady it at 3.7 percent.

A few things to watch for in this report, manufacturing. America's manufacturing powerhouse stumbled. An important report on factory work this week contracting for the first time in three years. The very sector President Trump sought to favor with his tariffs and tough talk is shrinking because of higher costs of those tariffs and slowing global growth.

The sector added only 7,000 jobs per month this year on average compared to 22,000 last year. So slowing growth there in manufacturing. New jobs in manufacturing are expected to drop to just 8,000 in this report, half of what they were in July. Investors lost the focus on wage growth numbers. Economists expect average hourly earnings will be slightly lower. A higher-than-expected number could cast doubts on expectations the Fed will cut interest rates again this month.


Clearly, Dave, this is a really -- this is kind of a pinnacle jobs report I think this morning.

BRIGGS: Even if they do cut rates, is that going to help bring back manufacturing? Is that the presumption?

ROMANS: Here's the thing. I mean, the trade war has really cooled the manufacturing sector here. And you know, you've got some economists and analysts who are saying we're in already a new cold war and the cold war is with China and that this is going to slow investment and slow growth in the very industries the president wants to.

BRIGGS: Choose the market but not bring back manufacturing numbers.

All right, ahead, a new revelation about the altered weather map President Trump showed off in the Oval Office. New but not all that surprising. Details next.



ROMANS: OK. So the "Washington Post" is reporting that it was President Trump who personally altered a Hurricane Dorian weather map with a Sharpie to make it look like Alabama had been in danger. The White House has been trying to clean up this mess by attacking the media and releasing alternative hurricane maps. Administration officials even crafted a 225-word statement defending the president's fabrications, but their boss can't seem to move on.

Here's Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine and Dave, we are now on day six of the president refusing to drop his false claim that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian, a claim that he made on Sunday but is continuing to make now, even in the face of several meteorologists saying that the president was not accurate when he made that claim.

The president is going to great lengths to claim he was right, even having his Homeland Security adviser, this person, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, issue a statement defending the president's remarks from last Sunday when he made that claim where, in this statement that is pretty extraordinary for the White House to issue, Brown said that the president was briefed in an update on Hurricane Dorian on Sunday and that that briefing included, quote, "The possibility of tropical storm-force winds in southeastern Alabama."

Of course, all of the models of that time on Sunday show otherwise, yet the president is continuing to make this claim and clearly seems to be sensitive to this idea that his claim could be wrong. So wrong, in fact, that my colleagues, Jeff Zeleny and Jake Tapper, are reporting that on the president, on Thursday afternoon, summoned the FOX News White House reporter to the Oval Office after he had been criticized on air for making the claim about Alabama, that the president told the FOX News reporter he was correct. He even, according to an internal e-mail that my colleagues saw, said he just wanted some acknowledgment that his claim about Alabama was correct, even if at the point that the president had tweeted it on Sunday it was no longer the case.

Clearly, we are seeing the president not wanting to drop this despite several people saying that the president should essentially just move on from it. Instead, he is doubling down on this -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: Extraordinary. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Meanwhile, British Parliament now set to debate and vote again next week on whether to hold an early election. The vote more likely to pass this time because a major objection from the leader of the opposition is expected to be removed today. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying, quote, "He'd rather be dead in a ditch than ask the E.U. for another Brexit extension," as he suffers another blow, this one his own brother abruptly resigning from politics.

CNN's Anna Stewart live in London outside Parliament. One would imagine the British tabloids are having a field day this morning.

Anna, good morning.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. It's the extraordinarily thing that Parliament actually returned from its summer break on Tuesday given the onslaught of events we've had. As you said, the big defeat for the government passing this bill that will block a no-deal Brexit that should become law on Monday we think. And that ended up with the prime minister essentially expelling 21 of his own MPs. We saw another MP defect cross the floor, sit with the Liberal Democrat Party. And as you said the tabloids are absolutely filled with this story. Even Boris's own family don't trust him. Jo Johnson, his brother, yesterday resigning.

Now we look ahead to a general election. All sides want one, there will be one, but when? And that is a huge question and it has huge implications for Brexit and who actually ultimately wins it. Now currently as you said the government will try and put the vote for a general election to parliament again on Monday. And it's a two-thirds majority, absolutely unclear that it will pass simply because many in the opposition Labour Party, and they will need them on side with this, believe that they should wait to agree to an election until they see the prime minister ask that E.U. extension on Brexit. And he said he'd rather be dead in a ditch.

So, all things to play for, but one thing is for certain, the prime minister is already in election campaign mode today in Scotland -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Sharpie-gate, Brexit-mess. It's all a mess.

Anna Stewart live for us in London this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. 19 minutes past the hour. An Ohio woman accused of human trafficking in the Philippines. How police say she tried to smuggle a baby out of the country. [04:19:40]


BRIGGS: An Ohio woman charged with human trafficking in the Philippines. Filipino investigators say 43-year-old Jennifer Talbot tried to smuggle a 6-day-old baby girl out of the country by hiding her in her shoulder bag. Talbot was able to pass through the immigration counter at Manila airport but was intercepted at the boarding gate by airline personnel. She was trying to board a Delta flight to the United States. Investigators are not releasing a possible motive.


ROMANS: All right. The Tenaja Fire, threatening lives and homes in Riverside County, California, has now burned over 2,000 acres. It is only 10 percent contained. Two structures have already sustained damage and more 1200 homes have been evacuated.

All that heavy smoke is raising health concerns. Classes canceled today in the entire Murrieta Valley School District as police go door- to-door ordering people to leave. The cause of the fire not known.

BRIGGS: If you slept through the NFL's 100th season opener, you are not alone. Even those who stayed up likely dozed off several times. The Packers beat the Bears 10-3 and we're being generous here. A sloppy affair. Defense dominated throughout the game's only touchdown came from Aaron Rodger's pass to Jimmy Graham in the first quarter. Late in the fourth, Bears looking to tie the game. Green Bay's safety Adrian Amos, a former Bear, sealed the win with an endzone interception of Mitchell Trubisky who was booed savagely at home. And the Romans children (INAUDIBLE) this morning.

ROMANS: Heart-breaker. Heart-breaker.

BRIGGS: Yes, it was ugly.

ROMANS: All right. 26 minutes past the hour. Five fatalities. Hundreds of thousands of homes without power. The latest on the destructive force of Hurricane Dorian ahead.